Sunday, April 03, 2011

Happy Birthday, Doris Day!

I am hosting the 66th Book Review Blog Carnival at my other blog, Book Reviews by Rick Sincere.  The carnival features reviews of fiction, non-fiction, history, and books on writing from bloggers across the United States and around the world.  (I think at least one entry came from Australia.)

Published biweekly on various blogs, I chose to subtitle this one the "Doris Day Edition."  Why?

Today is the 88th birthday of actress, singer, animal-rights activist, and America's sweetheart, Doris Day, who herself has been the subject of several books in recent years, including Doris Day: The Untold Story of the Girl Next Door, by David Kaufman (2009); Doris Day: The Illustrated Biography, by Michael Freedland (2009); Doris Day: Sentimental Journey, by Garry McGee (2010); Doris Day: Reluctant Star, by David Bret (2009); and Considering Doris Day, by Tom Santopietro (2008). All in all, that's a lot of attention paid to a film star who hasn't made a movie since 1968.
Doris Day started making movies in 1948 and for twenty years was one of the top box-office draws. She earned one Academy Award nomination but probably deserved more.

Severely underrated by a reputation for bubble-gum wholesomeness, not only could she play serious dramatic roles (the climactic scene in Hitchcock's 1956 remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much is illustrative) but some of her comic turns in movies like Pillow Talk were subversively transgressive. (Maybe the way her scenes with Rock Hudson were coded just went over the heads of critics and audiences alike, but those who were in the know knew.)

What a remarkable movie career Day had, even if judged only by the leading men she played against.

In addition to Hudson, she appeared on screen with Clark Gable, James Stewart, James Garner, James Cagney, Jack Lemmon, Cary Grant, Gordon MacRae, Frank Sinatra, Kirk Douglas, Ronald Reagan, Danny Thomas, Ray Bolger, Jack Carson, David Niven, Rex Harrison, John Gavin, Rod Taylor, Gig Young, Arthur Godfrey, and Tony Randall, among others. The list of her castmates reads like a Who's Who of 20th century movie stars, especially if you add some of her female costars like Lauren Bacall, Ginger Rogers, Virginia Mayo, Thelma Ritter, and Arlene Francis.

Speaking of Arlene Francis, on an episode of What's My Line? in 1957, Doris Day was a "mystery challenger" facing questions from the panel that included regulars Bennett Cerf, Dorothy Kilgallen, and Francis, as well as the father who knew best, Robert Young.  She was in New York to promote her new film, The Pajama Game.  Let's go to the tape:
Day was equally adept at playing comedy, drama, or in musicals. She introduced the great lesbian anthem, "Secret Love," as well as her own theme song, "Que Sera Sera," and -- in her earlier career as a girl singer -- Les Brown's wartime hit, "Sentimental Journey." Any one of those things would have established her as an institution on its own.

Although she has avoided the public eye for most of the past three decades, movie star Doris Day is firmly embedded in popular culture. It's only appropriate to wish her a happy birthday.

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3 comments: said...

please know that our dear Doris is 87 today, not 88! :)

Rick Sincere said...

Actually, we both seem to be math challenged. Doris Day was born today in 1922, which makes her 89 years old.

Unknown said...

An explanation for the confusion: In an interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air on NPR on April 2, Doris Day explained that for years, she claimed to be 2 years older than she actually was, because when she started out as a girl singer, she had to lie about her age. It seems she was 16 and she had to be 18 to sing for money, and the bandleader dressed her up to look more mature and claimed she was two years older than she actually was. It wasn't until she was past 30 that she readjusted her age.